The initiation ceremonies into each of the four Degrees of Knighthood within the Knights of Columbus are the only facets of the Order which are not made known to non-members.
Every applicant must take the First, or Membership Degree before he can be considered a Member of the Knights of Columbus. Once he has taken his First Degree and paid his dues, he becomes a member in good standing in the Order.
To reach full Knighthood, members must also take the Second and Third Degrees, and all members are strongly encouraged to do so. Members must have taken the Third Degree to be elected as officers of their Council.
Upon completion of his Third Degree, a Knight is eligible to join the Patriotic or Fourth Degree of the Order.
New candidates begin their journey to Knighthood by completing the First Degree exemplification where they learn the lesson of charity.
The principle of unity is taught in the exemplification of the Second Degree.
The exemplification of the Third Degree teaches the lesson of fraternity and usually takes place in a standalone ceremony.
The principle of patriotism is taught in a standalone exemplification, and consequently, the 4th Degree is often referred to as ‘The Patriotic Degree’.